I have a project where I need to establish a document that contains multiple versions of which some of the text is common to all versions and some is unique to each version. Does InDesign support anything like this?

Thank you for the reply and suggestion. I am not sure this will work for me as I probably did a poor job explaining my dilemma. While what I wrote is true, I need to "define" text within a page with some sort of tag whereby I hide all but one tag that applies to a particular version and thereby creating different version documents. My goal is to be able to take several documents that contain common text and not have to update all the versions everytime a change is made in the common text. Any suggestions? This might not even be an InDesign solution...

  • I think Book files might help you: A book file is a collection of documents that can share styles, swatches, master pages, and other items. You can sequentially number pages in booked documents, print selected documents in a book, or export them to PDF. One document can belong to multiple book files.
    – Mark Read
    Jul 30, 2019 at 5:38
  • One of the documents added to a book file is the style source. By default, the style source is the first document in the book, but you can select a new style source at any time. When you synchronize documents in a book, the specified styles and swatches from the style source replace those in other booked documents. helpx.adobe.com/au/indesign/using/creating-book-files.html
    – Mark Read
    Jul 30, 2019 at 5:39
  • 1
    Are you referring to simple things like names on a diploma? or two languages of an entire book. Because the answers and the process can be different depending on the case.
    – Rafael
    Jul 30, 2019 at 14:14
  • please edit your question to add as much detail as possible so we can answer your question, don't leave it in the comments. Check How to Ask.
    – Luciano
    Jul 31, 2019 at 8:52

3 Answers 3


One option might be to create an InDesign document that contains only the common text, then place that InDesign file (the same way you would place a graphic) into all of the document versions. Then, if a change is made, you only have to update the placed InDesign file and save it. The other documents will update as you open them to the latest version of that common text file.


Not exactly sure of your particular setup, but I did use layering on some occasions to show or hide text boxes or image assets selectively. You just move the other version of the text box to another layer and turn it on when you need it.

Same thing works for multi-language documents. Base layer (artwork, photos, logos, charts, etc) and separate layers for each translated language (text content in EN, ES, DE, SE, etc).


To be honest, it sounds like you're asking if there are single-source authoring tools within as-shipped InDesign, and the straight-line answer to that is no.

I'm sure there are plug-ins available which allow tagging, categories and tag conditioning to be applied, but that kind of authoring paradigm is far more closely aligned with XML HATs (Help Authoring Tools), and is part of what made FrameMaker the longtime de facto standard for tech writing in tech industry applications.

Currently, many tech writers in the tech sector use MadCap Flare, or Paligo, or for the more code-oriented folks, Jira or even Confluence and a text editor to achieve this approach to writing.

I'm using MadCap Flare with my current big client (I'm embedded) and use tags and conditions to manage my versioning and it works really well - for a smaller shop or a client with smaller budget, I'd look at Paligo as a next-best but cheaper alternative.

This is a quick concept sketch I use with clients to explain how conditional tags work in single-source authoring - the point is that all the source text for a given topic exists int he single topic container, and is hence easy to edit and correct when changes occur, but each variant portion is contained by tags in the text, and the conditions applied at the target level filter to leave only the relevant tagged content for the specific output.

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This next concept sketch is showing how another big difference between XML single-source authoring and InDesign / Publisher linear authoring is that single-source can be very literally non-linear, and the workflows can be too.

You can in fact approach this re-use of topics with InDesign by re=purposing the book file - InDesign chapters approach to be topic-based, but it's both a lot of work and non-optimal in a lot of ways.

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Lastly, the other major difference is in output choices, adn this also connects back to tagging: in a single-source tool like Flare, I can set up one master project file, with many topic files, and it can have multiple different TOCs, each of which call different sets of topics, and these can be used by multiple different publishing targets, which can no only specify different TOCs, but different CSS text and graphics styles, and different publishing outputs or push multiple outputs simultaneously, amd yet all the base content remains the same - so you can author an old-school three-frame HTML help system, an HTML 5 fully responsive web help, and a print-ready PDF all at the same time - the PDF will have different styles set up, different colour definitions, the in-line and thumbnailed images will be at a different scale which you've defined, and have discrete page masters.

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So my short answer is: No. But look into single-source authoring tools.

Hope this helps.

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